New Lake Montcalm Boat & Auto Center in Six Lakes enjoying ‘explosion’ of business

By Ryan Schlehuber "Scoop" • Last Updated 1:29 pm on Friday, December 30, 2011

Niles Thompson, left, and Bob Gilman opened their new business — Lake Montcalm Auto & Boat Center in Six Lakes — Labor Day weekend and have been busy ever since.

Members of Lake Montcalm Boat & Auto Center are working on installing a downdraft paint booth to add another element to the multi-operation business. The installation will be done in the next two weeks, according to co-owner Bob Gilman.

SIX LAKES — When a Montcalm County area marine shop went out of business Bob Gilman came up with an idea to start his own business, visioning more than just a marine supply and boat storage shop.
With four big buildings on 30 acres of property five miles south of Six Lakes, Gilman and his wife, Shelly, teamed up with his longtime friend, Niles Thompson of Stanton, and his wife, Cindy. Together, they opened a new business called Lake Montcalm Auto & Boat Center, which offers boat shrink wrapping and storage, compete auto and marine repair, small engine repair, supplies and paint and design work called hydrographics, which can paint and design items from a deer skull to a snowmobile chassis.
The Six Lakes business at 4511 W. Lake Montcalm Road opened just after Labor Day and has been overwhelmed with business since then.
“Everything has just exploded since we opened,” Gilman said. “I never dreamed we’d be where we are today, especially with the way the economy is. Angels are looking over us, that’s for sure.”
Gilman, a father of six children, has operated Northern Filter Services, which builds and installs paint booth systems across the country, including in Edmore, for 21 years. His experience with Northern Filter Services aided him in his plans to open Lake Montcalm Boat & Auto Center.
Thompson and Gilman have known each other for more than 15 years, becoming friends through bowling. Thompson moved to Michigan from Arizona after meeting and marrying his wife, who is from the Stanton area and is from the Outman family. Together, the Thompsons have two children.
“We wanted to raise our children here. We like it here,” Thompson said.
They are also enjoying much success with their new business.
“When the marine shop nearby closed I just thought there was still an opportunity for a shop like that to operate, considering we have 14 local lakes and people with boats still have money,” Gilman said.
With the combination of what Gilman calls a “full A-to-Z” auto center business, Gilman and Thompson’s staff of four have kept busy.
For example, Gilman was expecting to only shrink wrap about 30 boats this fall and winter but, so far, his business has done 90 boats.
“Our body shop is backed up two weeks, too. It’s been awesome,” Gilman said.
Gilman and Thompson are big promoters of supporting small businesses, as well, shopping locally for anything they need.
“You might spend a little more when shopping locally but you’re not just supporting that business, you’re also supporting that community,” Gilman said.
Lake Montcalm Auto & Boat Center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. Call (989) 365-3015 for more information.

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